LAFAYETTE — Next week, the School Board plans to discuss contingency plans on how to move forward with its facilities master plan after voters rejected funding for $561 million in construction and repairs Saturday, School Board president Mark Allen Babineaux said.
The proposed 23-mill property tax that would have funded major school construction and repairs and a separate 2-mill property tax designated for maintenance failed Saturday by more than 16,000 votes.
The proposal included rebuilding seven schools, new classroom additions at five schools and maintenance.
At the board’s Nov. 2 meeting, a presentation will be made about alternatives and possible opportunities to move the project along, Babineaux said Monday.
The proposal received 13,264 votes (about 31 percent), but 29,557 voters (69 percent) opposed it.
Only about 30 percent of 139,910 registered parish voters cast ballots on the school tax proposal. Nearly 33 percent, 46,064, voted in the governor’s race, according to complete but unofficial results.
The rejection comes amid the board’s search for a superintendent, and Babineaux questioned what impact the vote could have on attracting the right candidate. Interviews for the job begin next week.
The defeat “sends a bad message to our superintendent candidates (about) the amount of community support that our children have,” he said.
Groups on opposite sides of the tax debate said Monday they’d like to work together to seek a solution.
The opposition wasn’t a vote against the parish’s students, but the proposed way to fund improvements, said Joyce Linde, coordinator of the Tea Party of Lafayette. The group publicly opposed the tax.
“We feel that a smaller, more cohesive tax may work better,” Linde said. “This master facilities plan — it was too much at a time when people cannot afford it.”
The property tax proposal had the support of a grass-roots organization formed about three years ago called the Community Coalition for Lafayette Schools.
The organization will continue its advocacy in support of the construction program, said Diana Lennon, chairwoman of the group’s political action committee.
“I think now is the time for the leaders of opposition to come to the table and hammer out a solution,” Lennon said. “Our buildings are still falling apart. It’s a good time to get the conversation going.”
Buildings are in disrepair because of past board management, Linde said.
“We don’t have a lot of faith in the way our tax dollars are spent,” she added.
Linde said the group plans to investigate school construction programs in other districts.
“We do plan to be involved in this. We want better schools for our children, too,” she said.